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Nearly 1.3 million people in the United States are in treatment or in remission for blood cancer. Every month roughly 14,000 individuals are diagnosed with lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, and other blood cancers. The advancement in treatments has progressed greatly over the years, causing survival rates to rise by 25% since the mid-1970s.
Congress designated September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month, in 2010, in an effort to educate people more about this potentially deadly illness. Even though there has been some success in causing the survival rates to rise, blood cancer has remained a stubborn challenge. In the mid-1950s the first generation of chemotherapy medications was introduced.
Prevention and early detection have always presented a gap in battling blood disease. However, when x-rays and radiation therapies were developed the first steps to close the gap was established.
Since then there has been an advancement in treatment procedures and technology has become extremely helpful in detecting the disease in its early stages. Due to these changes, the 1960s five-year survival rate for leukemia has quadrupled.
However, it should be noted that even with those advancements and statistics are different across the different types of blood cancer. For example, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has an estimated annual death rate of 20,140 people.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) established the color red to represent all blood cancers.
Five years after their 16-year-old son passed away from leukemia, Rudolph and Antoinette de Villiers started a fundraising and education organization in his honor. The Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation started out in a small Wall Street office. At first, they only had a few volunteers with a minuscule budget.
Fueled by the need to find effective treatments for the blood cancer that took their son away the team set their sights on finding answers. They knew that most leukemia patients, especially youth, die within three months of diagnosis.
In 1955, the Foundation’s annual report stated, “As of this date, Leukemia is 100% fatal. This is almost a unique situation among the many diseases to which man is susceptible.” On the wings of the de Villiers’ belief that blood cancers were indeed curable, the Foundation steadily grew.
They eventually opened their first chapters in New York City and changed their name to The Leukemia Society. In the 1960s its name changed to The Leukemia Society of America to communicate a broad, national reach.
Now they are called The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and are the world’s largest voluntary — nonprofit — health organization dedicated to curing lymphoma, myeloma, leukemia, and other blood cancers. The organization works tirelessly to fund blood cancer research on top of providing education and patient services.
LLS has invested nearly $1.5 billion in pioneering many of today’s most innovative approaches and funding groundbreaking research.
Currently, they have initiated “The Dare To Dream Project: powering innovative research, new, safer treatments, support services, and advocacy…for kids.” The Society is “seeking to raise $175 million over the next five years to support global, collaborative research and treatments for children’s blood cancers, the LLS PedAL Master Clinical Trial, as well as widening our range of free education, 1:1 support services, financial assistance, and advocacy on behalf of all children and their families.”
Written by Sheena Robertson
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